Whether he was denying knowledge of QAnon or blowing off scientific data on COVID-19, Trump's town hall performance was a disorganized and chaotic mess.
On Thursday night, Donald Trump found himself in the hot seat during an hourlong town hall in Florida, a state pundits say he must win if he wants to be reelected to a second term.
Trump was grilled by NBC news anchor Savannah Guthrie on questions ranging from his current health, his administration's pandemic preparedness, and his views on white supremacy. He was also questioned by voters on corporate tax rates, eliminating coverage for people with preexisting conditions, and his administration's continued attacks on immigrants.
During the event, Trump stumbled, misled the audience, and repeatedly attempted to shift the focus away from his administration's catastrophic response to the virus and the economic downturn sweeping the nation.
Here are the nine most bizarre moments from last night.
Trump refused to say if he was tested for the coronavirus before debating Joe Biden
Guthrie pressed Trump on whether or not he tested positive or had been tested at all before his debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden last month.
"Well, I test quite a bit, and I can tell you that before the debate, which, and I thought it was a very good debate, and I felt fantastically, and I had no problem before," Trump said. "I don't know, I don't even remember. I test all the time, but I can tell you this, after the debate, like I guess a day or so, I think it was Thursday evening, maybe even late Thursday evening, I tested positive. That's when I first found out about it."
When pressed further by Guthrie, Trump continued, "The doctors do it. I don't ask them. I test all the time and ... if you ask the doctor, they'll give you a perfect answer."
According to Chris Wallace, Trump was not tested at the debate; instead, event organizers let Trump and his entourage abide by the honor system after he arrived late.
Trump says he doesn't know anything about QAnon
Guthrie asked Trump if he would once and for all disavow QAnon in its entirety, referencing the conspiracy theory alleging, among other things, that Trump is a savior fighting off a Democratic party run by a cabal of pedophiles.
After Guthrie explained the basic precepts of the movement to Trump, he replied: "I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard."
Trump then continued, "I tell you what I do know about, I know about antifa and the radical left, and I know how violent they are and how vicious they are, and I know how they're burning down cities run by Democrats."
Trump appears to have contradicted himself, saying he knows nothing about QAnon after he's repeatedly been asked to disavow it, while also acknowledging the group's "anti-pedophilia" stance and quickly attempting to turn the subject to one of his favorite targets, "the radical left."
Trump says 85% of people who wear masks get the coronavirus
When pressed on his apparent dislike for masks, Trump told Guthrie, "Just the other day, they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it so ... that's what I heard and that's what I saw."
In reality, Trump is misrepresenting a study from the Centers for Disease Control study that found that, in a small group of COVID-19 patients, 85% reported wearing masks some or all of the time. That same group was also twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant, where masks are set aside to eat.
Trump confirms tax evasion and calls $400 million "a peanut"
Trump largely conceded that he owes over $400 million to creditors after being pressed by Guthrie. As the New York Times showed last month, Trump has a massive debt problem and has misled the public for years about the state of his finances.
"Are you confirming that, yes, you do owe some $400 million?" Guthrie asked Trump.
"What I'm saying is that it's a tiny percentage of my net worth," Trump replied, "When you look at vast properties like I have, and they're big and they're beautiful, and they're well located. When you look at that, the amount of money, $400 million, is a peanut. It's extremely underlevered."
When asked about the meager $750 the New York Times says Trump paid in taxes, he said that it was a "statuary number. I think it's a filing number. You pay $750, it's a filing fee."
Trump compares himself to Abraham Lincoln
When pressed by a town hall attendant to expand on how he plans address police violence in America, Trump said he has "done more for the African-American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln."
Trump went on to say, "I saw everything you saw this summer, terrible thing to watch. We have a senator named Tim Scott. He came up with a bill that should have been approved. It was strong in terms of law enforcement and enforcing the proper thing and Democrats wouldn't go for it, and Democrats wouldn't go for it all."
The bill, introduced by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) would have incentivized cities to stop using chokeholds, but not banned them entirely.
According to a New York Times' fact check:
Among modern presidents, historians agreed that the most significant legislative achievements belong to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who shepherded the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. A 2017 study that assessed modern presidents based on the analysis of editorials published in Black newspapers ranked Mr. Johnson at the top. Mr. Trump would place in the bottom third, the study's co-author told The Times.
Trump says the end of the pandemic is near
Trump said at the town hall, “We’ve done an amazing job. And it’s rounding the corner,” in response to a question on his administration's coronavirus response.
However, most predictions are dire as the spread of the deadly virus continues unchecked while the country heads into the winter months, when more time spent in confined spaces and a decrease in humidity could lead to further spread and serious challenges to containment.
Trump's statement stands in direct contradiction to his own public health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who recently said, "That’s a bad place to be when you’re going into the cooler weather of the fall and the colder weather of the winter...We’re in a bad place now. We’ve got to turn this around.”
Coronavirus infection rates are rapidly increasing in dozens of states, in some cases almost exponentially despite Trump's either ignorance or unwillingness to acknowledge this reality.
Trump says retweets are not endorsements
Guthrie challenged Trump on why he retweeted a Twitter account claiming Biden was part of a conspiracy targeting members of Seal Team Six to cover up what the tweet described as the "fake" death of Osama bin Laden.
"That was a retweet. That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I'll put it out there. People can decide for themselves. I don't take a position," Trump said.
Trump has repeatedly attacked Biden using bizarre conspiracy theories, including his most recent accusations that Osama Bin Laden was not killed in 2011. His bizarre assertion that he retweeted the story merely to inform the public was countered by Guthrie.
"You're the president," Guthrie said, "You're not like somebody's crazy uncle and can just retweet whatever."
Trump can't denounce white supremacy on its own
Despite being warned about his incendiary comments in the wake of Heather Heyer's murder by a white supremacist in Charlottesville — after which Trump made the infamous comment, "There are some very bad people on both sides" — Tuesday night saw Trump once again fail to condemn white supremacy without simultaneously bringing up his favorite bogeyman, "antifa."
"I denounced White supremacy. I denounced White supremacy for years but you always start off with the question, you didn't ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounces Antifa," Trump said. "I denounced white supremacy. I denounce Antifa and I denounce these people on the left that are burning down our cities, that are run by Democrats."
Trump's refusal to condemn white supremacy outright, much like his reluctance when questioned about QAnon, has emerged as a persistent theme of his time in office. During his debate with Biden at the beginning of October, Trump told the Proud Boys, a white supremacist hate group, to "stand back and stand by".
Trump says he has no idea how Barrett will rule as a justice
Trump was asked a series of questions about his recent nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. When pressed about her confirmation hearing and the potential for her to hold a bias in favor of the president who nominated her, Trump gave a bizarre rambling response that failed to reassure his host.
"The whole ball game changed when I saw how they treated Kavanaugh. I have never seen a human being treated so badly. I have never seen anything like it. There has never been anyone treated so badly as now Justice Kavanaugh." Trump said.
"I would think that she would be able to rule either for me or against me. I don't see any conflict whatsoever. We have an election coming up. I think it's the most important election in the history of our country." he added. "I never talked to her about any of the obvious things you could talk about."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.